Scott Dawson, popular evangelist and one of the many Republican candidates for Alabama’s 2018 gubernatorial race, has made a name for himself for his biblical approach to politics. Unlike some recent “evangelical” candidates in the state, Dawson approaches politics from a servant’s heart and embodies what it means to be a true evangelical conservative candidate in the modern era. While not infallible, his message of hope and unity could bridge the gap between the older and younger wings of conservatives in the state and bring much needed change to Montgomery.
Founder of the Scott Dawson Evangelistic Association, he has helped spread the unifying message of hope in Jesus Christ throughout Alabama and across the country. He announced his candidacy on the syndicated “Rick and Bubba Show” in the summer, saying that his decision was birthed out of a “broken heart” towards Alabama politics. “I started praying through it,” Dawson said, “and it became so overwhelming in my life, that for a time such as this to serve. I’m not looking for a career change, I’m not in a mid-life crisis; this was just birthed out of a broken heart.”
That broken heart has put Dawson in fourth place in the fundraising race, three places behind current Governor Kay Ivey, who has managed to amass over two million dollars in campaign contributions. Ivey enjoys one of the highest approval ratings among all governors across the nation and is the early favorite to win the GOP nomination next year. However, both Dawson and Ivey have a similar blemish on their record: their support of Roy Moore in the U.S. senate race.
Both Moore and Ivey framed their vote as a vote for the Republican party, attempting to distance themselves from Moore’s accusations of sexual assault. Dawson said that he was unsure if the allegations were true and would vote to maintain the Republican Senate seat. Ivey admitted that she believed the women who accused Moore of assault, and still directly supported Moore’s campaign. Other Republican leaders have attempted to blame state party chair Terry Lathan for threatening any Republican who spoke out against the party nominee. However, Lathan was simply forced to follow the decisions of her committee members, and any attempt to fault her for the outcome of the election is not only factually inaccurate, but morally reprehensible. It was important to attempt to maintain the party’s slim majority, and there may have been some reasons to doubt the accusations. However, voting for a man who is almost certainly a child molester, has no respect for the rule of law, and preaches a gospel of hatred and anger was a major mistake. This appears to be a rare moment where both Dawson and Ivey caved to political pressure.
Dawson is in an interesting position as he is the most likely candidate to inherit Roy Moore’s large evangelical base, and his background in organizing youth rallies suggests he could easily be able to earn the support of Alabama’s young voters. However, to accomplish both, he will have to set himself apart from the theocratic rule and gospel of anger, fear, and bigotry espoused by Roy Moore. He must make voters aware that he intends to govern from a biblical worldview, as he has explained:
“I’m not going to replace the capital dome with a steeple; I’m not going to make everyone believe like me, live like me; we live in a free country. The scripture teaches you to treat everyone with respect. That word respect means to hold everyone in a high regard.”
Dawson realizes something that Roy Moore forgot: God does not need the government to build His kingdom. He needs politicians with a heart for all people, who will protect His church’s right to minister to those in need. It is this sentiment that will appeal to many of the state’s young evangelical conservatives.
Further setting himself apart from Moore, Dawson should oppose any support he may receive from Steve Bannon, as his beliefs directly contradict Dawson’s vision of hope and unity for the state. Dawson could never accept support from a man who demonized Mitt Romney for serving as a missionary, and should publicly denounce Bannon’s involvement in any part of the Alabama gubernatorial race.
Dawson is not just an evangelical candidate; he is strongly versed on policy as well. Dawson believes in establishing a strong future for the state through prison reform, infrastructure revitalization, and education reform. However, Dawson’s platform doesn’t stop at the talking points. He believes in listening to what the people of Alabama want to see happen in their state, and began a listening tour at the end of the summer to do just that.
Governor Ivey’s short term in office has been a refreshing shift from the corruption and complacency that plagued Alabama politics in the previous administration, and there is no doubt that she would continue to lead the state well if reelected in 2018. However, if the state’s conservatives want to finally elect a true evangelical leader – one who will lead as a servant, continue Alabama’s explosive economic growth, and advocate for those of faith – they have the potential to do so in Scott Dawson.
Follow the author on Twitter